Hosts Turkmenistan top medal table after 'best-ever' Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games
The Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah described Ashgabat 2017 as the "best-ever" Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in history at a dazzling closing ceremony on Wednesday.
After 12 days of fierce competition across 21 sports in 15 stunning venues, the fifth edition of the AIMAG came to a close with hosts Turkmenistan topping the medal table ahead of the People's Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Turkmenistan's whopping tally of 89 gold medals included 39 gained in its national sport of Belt Wrestling as well as 23 in Traditional Wrestling. The host nation's total haul of 245 medals also included 70 silvers and 86 bronzes.
By contrast, runners-up China – after a slow start – snared 97 medals (42 gold, 32 silver, 23 bronze) with particularly strong showings in Swimming, Dancesport, Weightlifting and Billiards.
Iranian weightlifter Sohrab Moradi – a gold medallist from the Rio 2016 Olympics – provided one of the moments of the Games in breaking an 18-year world record of 228kg in the men's 94kg Weightlifting event to secure one of his nation's 36 gold medals just one day after celebrating his 29th birthday.
Picking up a further 23 silver and 59 bronze medals, third-place Iran excelled in Wrestling and Taekwondo, while its male footballers notched a record fifth consecutive Futsal title in style in a 7-1 demolition job over Uzbekistan in the final.
In front of a sold-out crowd in the 45,000-capacity Ashgabat Olympic Stadium, Sheikh Ahmad praised the host nation for the "best-ever" edition of the AIMAG, singling out the "world-class" venues and the "vision and day-to-day involvement" of the Esteemed President of Turkmenistan Garbanguly Berdimuhamedov.
"It has been a wonderful journey for all of us," he said. "Thank you for inviting us to your country and your capital Ashgabat. Congratulations on the best-ever Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games."
Sheikh Ahmad also thanked the 8,000 yellow-shirted First Star volunteers who became the smiling and hospitable face of the Games, Turkmenistan and its capital city of Ashgabat.
"The city is beautiful and the venues are world-class. The Games have been an outstanding success," he concluded. "We have witnessed a special Games in a special city and will go home with special memories."
Ashgabat 2017 Olympic StadiumEurosport
As President Berdimuhamedov declared the Games closed, the flame burning in the cauldron above the giant statue of a horse's head overlooking the stadium was slowly extinguished. Cultural performances, a look back over the highlights of the past 12 days and a pop concert followed ahead of an extravagant fireworks display that drew the final curtain down on the Games.
The Games opened on September 17 and involved 6,000 athletes and officials from 65 teams from Central Asia and Oceania – including an African Refugee Team comprised of athletes from South Sudan.
Fourth-place in the final medal table, Kazakhstan dominated in the Indoor Athletics programme with six gold medals over three days – including gold medals in the Long Jump and Triple Jump for the London 2012 Olympic champion Olga Rypakova. The Central Asian nation also picked up seven medals in the old Soviet army sport of Sambo.
Turkmenistan's neighbours Uzbekistan excelled in the Kurash events with seven gold medals, while Thailand predictably dominated its own sport of Muaythai to top the podium seven times.
Vietnam's Le Quang Liem showedcased his masterful mind and strategic prowess to become the undisputed grand champion in the Chess Arena, winning the men's title and two more gold medals in team events. Korea stood out for its performances in Bowling, Swimming, Taekwondo and the DanceSport Arena, where one memorable afternoon yielded a triple golden haul in Jive, Rumba and Cha-Cha-Cha.
The Chinese territory of Hong Kong tasted success in both the Velodrome and the pool with five Track Cycling and four Swimming gold medals. India won five gold medals in the Athletics Arena and two titles in the Indoor Tennis Centre, while favourites Qatar won the men's 3x3 Basketball title and surprise package Thailand won the women's tournament.
In a landmark moment for major multi-sports events, E-Sports took a bow for the first time at the AIMAG as a demonstration event with 56 competitors battling it out in King of Fighters, Starcraft II, Hearthstone and Dota2 as the discipline made its debut in an OCA event.
The honour of the most medals won by an individual at the games went to Chinese swimmer Sun Meichen, who notched four gold and three silver medals.
Seydi Batyrow of Turkmenistan (Ashgabat 2017)Eurosport
Meanwhile, Turkmen wrestler Seydi Batyrow was the stand-out performer for the hosts with an impressive personal haul of six gold medals – four in Belt Wrestling and two in Traditional Wrestling.
The sixth edition of the Asian Indoor and Martian Arts Games takes place in 2021, with Thailand tipped to win the election to host the event.